Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

NEIGHBORS>> Banding together

IN SHORT: Shepherd’s Center members mark hummingbirds

By Sara Greene
Leader staff writer

Members of The Shepherd’s Center in Beebe took a field trip this
month to Lakeview Country Club in Hardy for a once-in-a-life- time experience of banding hummingbirds.

The group visited the home of E. P. “Perk” Floyd, one of a few people licensed to band birds in Arkansas. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues the difficult to obtain licenses. Floyd has written several guides on Arkansas birds including “All About Cardinals.”

“I estimate we’ve banded about 6,000 birds over the years,” Floyd said.

He and his wife, Leannah, have banded goldfinches, titmouses, indigo buntings, wrens, sparrows and cardinals.

There are 19 different types of hummingbirds in the continental United States and nine have been spotted in Arkansas.

Hummingbirds are hard to see in flight. The birds’ miniature wings flap so rapidly, there is a buzzing sound as they zip past, hence the “humming.”

Floyd catches the hummingbirds by placing a feeder in cage. Hummingbird feeders are filled with sugar water tinted red with food coloring to replicate nature’s nectar.
After the bird flies into the cage to feed, the cage door is closed. Floyd said the number of hummingbirds attracted to the feeder varies. He may capture two hummingbirds in an hour. Other times, he may capture 12.

Floyd reaches in and gently captures the birds in his hand. Holding the small, fragile birds properly is of utmost importance.

He wraps the birds in a mesh cloth. He takes the birds inside to weigh and measure.
Some of the captured birds will get a small numbered band attached to their tiny leg. Others already have the numbered bands. Numbers of the banded birds are recorded in a logbook.

“By banding the birds and tracking the numbers, we learn where the birds go and how long they live,” Floyd said. “The biggest challenge in banding hummingbirds is the weather, if it’s pouring down rain, the birds won’t come to the feeders.”

When captured, the humming bird goes into a quiet, trance-like state. To release the birds, members of The Shepherd’s Center held the birds, sometimes gently touching their feathers. The birds would come out of their stupor and fly away.

The field trip was a great hands-on learning experience for the group. Many of the members have hummingbird feeders in their gardens and patios.

“This was a great experience for our group,” said Paul Ramsey, executive director of The Shepherd’s Center of Beebe. “I learned so much about the birds that I didn’t know before.”

Floyd served for 25 years with the U. S. Public Health Service. He is a former high school and college teacher has degrees in zoology and chemistry. He’s been a member of the Audubon Society since 1940, but his appreciation of nature’s birds began long before that.

“I started watching birds when I was 10 years old,” he said. “It’s been a lifelong hobby.”